A Research Paper By Aneta Kantarowska, Life Coach, NETHERLANDS
Explore What Victim Mentality Is, How to Coach a Client With a Victim
I have been hearing very often during my childhood phrases such as: “if you are born poor you will always be poor”; “if you do not have connections your life will never improve”; “my life has always been and will be up the hill”. For many years I believed it was true. When I started reading books about personal development and talking to people who were in general successful in life, I realized that it is a personal choice to make a sufficient effort to become happy. My perception of life and happiness has changed irreversibly. I realized that being happy in life had nothing to do with having connections or a lot of money. On the contrary, I have learned that it is up to an individual to make sufficient efforts that lead them towards becoming happy. This is how I learned about a victim mentality.
In this research paper, I will explore what victim mentality is, how to coach a client with a victim mentality, and which resources can be used by a client in addition to coaching.
What Is a Victim Mentality?
According to the Cambridge dictionary victim mentality(victimhood) is “the condition of having been hurt, damaged, or made to suffer, especially when you want people to feel sorry for you because of this or use it as an excuse for something”. Victim mentality is believing that somebody else is more fortunate. It is believing that others are the cause of an undesired situation and denying personal responsibility for one’s own life or circumstances. People with a victim mentality often feel relief from feeling self-pity and getting sympathy from others. They are often quite pessimistic and can be very creative with finding reasons for why they are so unfortunate. They often believe that their life is under the control of fate, luck, or the mercy of other people. They often feel powerless, have a tendency to self-sabotage themselves, do not take responsibility for their actions, feel a lack of self-confidence, and believe that no one cares about them. They are not able to enjoy life to its fullest and feel isolated in their pain.
Where Is a Victim Mentality Coming From?
The victim mentality can come from trauma, manipulation, or painful life events. If bad things happen to them a few times in a row, they believe the whole world is against them. They often have difficulties realizing that things happen because of a consequence of their behavior. People often do not choose to be a victim; it usually becomes a coping mechanism to deal with pain and stressful events. Victims who do not have strong support from friends and family usually have a harder time overcoming their feelings of victimization.
They often believe that somebody else needs to get them out of the victim’s state of mind. Often, they do not realize that it is in their power to help themselves. They need to find their inner courage to change their minds. They can only do this themselves. Here is when coaching can play a crucial role for a clients to realize that they operate from a victim mentality and together with a coach can work on shifting their perception and taking necessary actions to become responsible for their life and happiness.
How to Coach a Client With a Victim Mentality?
Coaching can be used with a client who shows victim mentality as a sounding board for the client but also to partner with a client to realize their thinking patterns, and limitations and whenever were ready to take some actions to change the course of their life.
Clients with a victim mentality may need a coach with lots of empathy and acknowledgment that they experienced some painful events. They might not like any judgment or labeling as a victim. A coach can allow them sufficient time and space to talk and share their feelings. They want to be heard, understood, and validated. A coach should show empathy, compassion, and kindness and allow them to grow by encouragement. At the same time, it is important for the coach to set some boundaries without allowing them to invade their personal space and not to allow themselves to get caught in bad dynamics.
One of the things that can be used in the coaching practice with the client with the victim mentality is to work with them to help them realize that if they do not shift their perception from being the victim these feelings will follow them till the rest of their life. The coach might partner with the client to think of behaviors that did not work well in the past like not taking responsibility, blaming, complaining, and feeling powerless. The coach might partner with the client to think of mistaken beliefs that do not suit the client anymore.
At first, a client with a victim mentality might behave defensively, refuse to answer questions, and keep self-sabotaging. With some powerful questions, the client might realize these and work with the coach towards a goal to improve their thinking. A coach will help them to brainstorm goals and ways to change their lives. Questions such as What would you do if you had the power to do something might help them to realize they can change things themselves and they can think of options before they make any decision. Questions such as What are you good at and What have you done well in the past will make them think and change their focus into something positive.
With the below exercise a coach can help a client to compare their feelings when they felt they were in a situation when they were a victim and did not do anything to change that versus thinking of a situation when they could influence being a victim: this exercise can be done either in a session or as a journal. Firstly, the coach asks the client to think of a situation when they felt they were a victim: how did they feel in that situation, they will describe their feelings and emotions. Then the coach asks the client to think of a situation when they felt they had the power to take responsibility over the situation: what did they think when they felt they can take control of the situation? The coach can then ask the client about the difference in their body when they thought about these two situations. How did they feel when they went through the feelings of being a victim and when they felt they could influence that? What was the difference?
The coach will pay attention to the words the client is using to understand what emotions the client was going through. This will help the coach to understand the client’s emotions. A coach will then partner with the client to discover what the client could have done in the previous situation when they felt like a victim and how they can change their behavior moving forward. This exercise will help the client realize how powerful they can be and that they can influence the events that happen in their life. It will also help the client to realize that they cannot control everything that is happening around them, but they can control their reaction to those circumstances for instance being in traffic (instead of being angry at these circumstances they can think of 5 things they are grateful for). The coach will help the client to create a vision of the end goal and move along with them towards this goal. If there are obstacles the coach will encourage the client to think about their vision and take further steps. A coach can partner with the client to realize that it is OK to take small steps one at a time. A coach can also help the client to be accountable for taking these steps. A coach can also celebrate with the client achieving these steps.
Victim Mentality Coaching Helpful Resources
Below resources may help clients to see their potential and find happiness. A coach can partner with the client to practice gratitude. Saying it out loud or writing down things they feel grateful for can help them realize how lucky they are, and that life is can be enjoyable and not only about struggling. Practicing gratitude for even 5 minutes a day will help the client to change how they feel and remind them to be thankful for even small things. Gratitude may help them realize how many good things are around them that they usually take for granted. It may help the client to change their perception from being a victim to appreciating what they already have.
Affirming self-responsibility can help the client gain self-confidence and realize that all their actions have consequences if good or bad. It might help them realize that it is entirely up to them to make decisions and be responsible for their own actions.
Practicing doing kind things for others if it is their friend, family member or a stranger will release many happy endorphins which as a consequence make them feel good about themselves and help them see things from a different perspective.
Meditation, walking, hobbies, running and other stress-relieving techniques will help them relax and change their thought process to focus on what they can control and accept what they are not able to control. It can help to observe their thoughts and eventually change their perceptions and stop the victim cycle.
If the client has a trauma that has not been processed from the past suggesting they speak to a therapist might also be an idea.
Victim mentality is a strong belief of external circumstances have an impact on one’s happiness. It is difficult to change such perceptions if a person truly believes they are not responsible for taking actions in their life. Coaching can be a very powerful way for the client to realize their limiting beliefs, what is causing them to be in such a state of mind, change their perception and take necessary steps in order to improve the quality of their life. If the client has been in a victim mentality for the majority of their life it can be a lengthy process to help them change their perception but also help introduce different ways of thinking and doing things. It is therefore very important for the coach to show the client empathy, kindness, and compassion. It is also significant to help them through this journey to celebrate what they went through, what they have done so far, and actions they will take to change their perception to become happier. Above exercise and resources can help the client to practice their daily routine with gratitude, self-responsibility, and stress-relieving techniques to feel more powerful about taking small steps and eventually changing the direction their life will turn into and recognizing that it is them who can influence that. There’s always a silver lining to be found in even the most challenging situations. It is for the coach to work with the client to become aware of it and work towards changing that perception and improving the standard of their life.
Victimhood: VICTIMHOOD | meaning in the Cambridge English Dictionary
Positive psychology: 36 Ways to Find A Silver Lining During Challenging Times
Lee, S., 2021. Be water, friend. The teachings of Bruce Lee.REBIS Publishing House.
Better up: Victim mentality: How we hold ourselves back by blaming others: Victim Mentality: How We Hold Ourselves Back by Blaming Others
What is a victim mentality: Victim Mentality: Causes, Symptoms, and More (webmd.com)